By Annie Moreno
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Councilman Ryan Dorsey, D-District 3, introduced a bill to the City Council this week that would repeal an ordinance that prohibits children from playing on city streets.
Dorsey said the city should stop criminalizing games like throwing tennis balls at the steps or basketballs in the streets. He said his focus is particularly in poor neighborhoods where residents do not have yards.
The bill was referred to the council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee for consideration. Copies are also being sent to the police, fire, health and transportation departments for feedback.
Councilman Zeke Cohen, D-District 1, who co-sponsored the bill, said he supports the proposal because the city should not criminalize childhood.
Cohen said in an interview after the meeting that children are criminalized for things that he himself used to do as a child, such as playing ball in the street with his friends.
“It is important, in a city that is really grappling with a legacy of institutionalized racism, that we be really clear … we as a city council will not get in the habit of criminalizing them,” Cohen said. “We will attempt to decriminalize playing ball in the street. We do not want our kids getting into mischief, selling drugs, or participating in negative activities. We have got to give them things to do, and not every kid has a rec center that they can go to. So, if they got to play ball in the street, then that is what they’ve got to do.”
In other matters, the founder of a nonprofit group that helps the homeless asked the council to help his organization provide showers for the estimated 4,000 homeless men and women in Baltimore.
Rich Akwo, the chief impact officer of Generosity Global, said the trucks that provide mobile showers would need to be hooked up to fire hydrants. He said the group would also need parking permits to provide the service to the homeless.
Akwo said communal shower spaces are limited and not many shelters have showers. The shower trucks would wash up to 120 people each day, he said.
He said the service would cost the group about $4,500 a month to provide showers five to seven days a week.
“Our goal is to have the city give us some kind of concession—accommodation—to basically make it more affordable,” Akwo said.